With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to take its toll on the world at large, a lot of our daily lives are focused on the topic of health: keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy while continuing to go about our lives as normally as possible. Many people are understandably still too cautious to get a routine checkup, go to the dentist, or leave the house for non-essential reasons, months after the lockdowns began.
Nothing feels normal right now, but the pandemic’s current impact on our lives might very well shape the new normal for years to come. Healthcare is changing in response to COVID-19, and we’re already seeing a preview of what the future might hold, even after the pandemic has died down.
Current Status of COVID and Healthcare
The theme of healthcare during the pandemic is “essential.” When is an appointment essential enough to put patients and staff at risk of contracting the virus? The cost vs. benefit outcome isn’t always easy to determine, but the question has fundamentally changed the way we think about modern healthcare.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of tools like telehealth and remote monitoring has exploded. Although these tools have been available for years and have the potential to revolutionize and streamline medicine, it took the push of COVID to realize their current power. As technology improves, telehealth will become even more comprehensive.
Of course, telehealth isn’t always practical. Some patients do need to see their doctors in person. However, virtual visits are cutting down on the number of in-person appointments and freeing up staff to care for COVID patients. Additionally, elective procedures are beginning to shift to outpatient surgery centers to reduce patients’ exposure and to free up hospital space.
Automation & Machine Learning Can Help Assist Nurses
The concept of the “robot nurse” isn’t new, but with COVID challenging the healthcare system, we might see more automation and machine learning implemented in hospitals around the world very soon. Staffing shortages are causing problems for hospitals and leading to burnout among nurses, so finding creative ways to streamline operations will be crucial in the long term.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics can help nurses reduce errors, perform repetitive manual labor tasks without human assistance, cut down on wait times for patients in the emergency room, and much, much more. Nurses need to be able to focus on caring for patients, not doing all of the other little tasks required to keep a hospital running. Using electronic health records, virtual check-in, and data analysis is also important for delivering efficient and effective care in the modern hospital.
Travel Nurses Being Sent to New Communities to Help
COVID has brought many inequalities in the United States and around the world into the spotlight. Public health officials have realized that it is crucial to send trained medical staff to underserved communities in order to help vulnerable populations.
Traveling nurses have been going abroad for decades to help countries in need of medical aid, but we’re also seeing the need for nurses to travel domestically. As the aging population continues to increase, we will likely see more traveling nurses post-COVID to help with staffing shortfalls.
Improving Patient Flow Will Need to be a Much Needed Improvement
We’re all used to the traditional model of the emergency room and its use as the “front desk” of a hospital. Unfortunately, this greatly slows down patient routing and mixes potentially contagious patients with people who are suffering from mental health issues, injuries, or chronic illness.
During COVID, hospitals are becoming more aware of just how inefficient and dangerous this model is. In the future, we can expect changes in how patients are routed through the hospital and given care. Remote screening, virtual check-ins, and changes to how waiting rooms are set up might all help to improve patient flow, reducing risks and stress for patients and staff.
Continue to Expect a Rise in Pop-Up Hospitals
Pop-up hospitals have been an important tool during the COVID-19 pandemic. In areas with few available beds, temporary medical facilities have made it possible to accommodate more patients and ensure that they receive the care they need. Hospitals of the future will have a more flexible design, but communities might also continue to embrace the pop-up hospital as needed.
The COVID pandemic has devastated communities across the globe. But it’s also important to note that there are a few silver linings—and one of them is a much-needed overhaul of some of our country’s healthcare protocols. Sometimes, tragedy pushes us to be better.